Research into causes of lung cancer

Researchers around the world are looking into the causes of lung cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for lung cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

We know that a person’s risk of developing lung cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to certain risk factors.

Researchers are looking into other reasons why lung cancer develops in some people but not others.


We know that smoking plays a big part in causing lung diseases. It’s not fully understood why some people who smoke get lung cancer and others don’t.

Differences in our genes may affect how cells in the airways react to substances in cigarette smoke. Researchers are looking at cells from the airways of people who are due to have a test called a bronchoscopy to get a better understanding of these differences. This may help to predict who could be at greater risk of lung cancer.

The study team are looking at if blood cells, and cells lining the nose and mouth, react to cigarette smoke in the same way as cells in the airways. If they do, it may be possible to develop new ways of testing to see who is at higher risk of lung cancer.

Researchers are interested in why people smoke and how to help them give up. This could help us develop better stop smoking services in the future. Other teams are looking at how to stop young people from taking up smoking in the first place.

Genes and lifestyle

Researchers are collecting information to find out more about causes of lung cancer. They are interested in the relationship between:

  • genes
  • lifestyle
  • surroundings

To look at this, they are making a store of information from over two thousand people diagnosed with lung cancer in the North West area of the UK.


A large research study across Europe is looking for links between diet and cancer. It’s called EPIC (The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer). The study is producing reports on diet and lifestyle and various cancers, including lung cancer. People have been taking part in the study for around 20 years so far.

The researchers have so far reported that eating more fruit may help to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer. But giving up smoking is by far the best way of reducing your risk.

Gene patterns

Normal cells become cancer cells because the genes inside them are damaged. In most cases of lung cancer, smoking causes this gene damage.

Scientists know that genes such as p53 and sNRSF can cause lung cancer when they are damaged. Researchers are interested in finding other genes that are involved in the development of the disease.

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